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Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky
Orthodox dogmatic theology

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The works of the Holy Fathers.

For guidance in questions of faith, for the correct understanding of Sacred Scripture, and in

order to distinguish the authentic Tradition of the Church from false teachings, we appeal to the

works of the holy Fathers of the Church, acknowledging that the unanimous agreement of all of

the Fathers and teachers of the Church in teaching of the Faith is an undoubted sign of truth. The

holy Fathers stood for the truth, fearing neither threats nor persecutions nor death itself. The Patristic

explanations of the truths of the Faith 1) gave precision to the expression of the truths of

Christian teaching and created a unity of dogmatic language; 2) added testimonies of these truths

from Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, and also brought forth for them arguments based on

reason. In theology, attention is also given to certain private opinions (In Greek: theologoumena) of

the holy Fathers or teachers of the Church on questions which have not been precisely defined

and accepted by the whole Church. However, these opinions are not to be confused with dogmas,

in the precise meaning of the word. There are some private opinions of certain Fathers and teachers

which are not recognized as being in agreement with the general catholic faith of the Church,

and are not accepted as a guide to faith. (As an example of such “private opinions,” one may take the mistaken

opinion of St. Gregory of Nyssa that hell is not everlasting and that all — including the demons — are to be

saved in the end. This opinion was rejected decisively at the Fifth Ecumenical Council as contradicting the Church's

catholic consciousness,” but St. Gregory himself is still accepted as a saint and as a Holy Father in the OrthodoxChurch and his other teachings are not questioned. On the Orthodox attitude toward such mistakenprivate opinions

of the Fathers, and specifically, concerning the teaching on this subject of such Fathers as St. Photius the Great

and St. Mark of Ephesus, see the article “The Place of Blessed Augustine in the Orthodox Church” in The Orthodox

Word, 1978, nos. 79 and 80, printed also as a separate booklet, St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1983.)

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